Volleyball Hosts No. 6 Florida In Regular Season Finale

Nov. 26, 2013

Wednesday, November 26, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky.
Tickets: UKathletics.com/tickets
Radio: 1580 AM | UKathletics.com
Live Video : vs. Florida
Live Stats : vs. Florida
Match Info: Match Notes
Additional Info: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | 2013 Fact Book

The No. 17 University of Kentucky volleyball team hosts sixth-ranked Florida in its final regular season contest Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum.

Wednesday’s match will feature a live video stream, radio broadcast and stats for both contests on UKathletics.com. The contest will also air live on 1580 AM, with Dick Gabriel and Mandy Robbe on the call.

UK is 21-7 and 13-4 in the SEC after a sweep of Texas A&M and a 3-0 loss to No. 4 Missouri. In the win over the Aggies, three Wildcats had double-figure kills including a team-high 15 from senior Whitney Billings, who also added 10 digs for her 39th career double-double. Four players logged double-digit digs as UK had 62 for the match, a new program record in a three-set contest in the 25-point rally scoring era.

The Gators sport a 26-3 record overall and a 15-2 mark in league play. The Gators have won three straight, all by 3-0 margins, with victories over Alabama and LSU at home and a road win at Tennessee. Wednesday’s outing in Lexington is also UF’s regular season finale.

With the men’s and women’s basketball teams also in action at home Wednesday, UK Athletics is hosting the “Big Blue Triathlon.” The Triathlon begins when the women’s basketball team hosts Bradley at noon ET at Memorial Coliseum. continues at 4 p.m. ET at Rupp Arena when the men’s basketball team hosts Eastern Michigan. The triathlon concludes at 8 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum where the volleyball team plays host to Florida in the squad’s regular-season finale.

Fans will have the opportunity to check in before and after each event. Fans who attend all three contests will receive a commemorative Big Blue Triathlon t-shirt. One grand champion (random drawing) will receive a Nike gift pack and two lower level tickets to the men’s basketball game vs. Louisville, VIP access to ESPN College GameDay on February 15th, two lower level tickets to men’s basketball vs. Florida, and two lower level tickets to men’s basketball vs. Alabama (senior day). The winning “triathlete” will also get to shoot baskets on the Rupp Arena floor prior to one of the games as well as get their picture taken at mid court. Full information can be found here.

Florida is 26-3 overall and 15-2 in SEC action. The Gators’ three defeats have come twice to undefeated Missouri and once to then top-ranked Penn State in Austin, Texas. UF upended No. 2 Stanford, also in Austin in addition to a home win over No. 17 Florida State. Florida’s remaining ranked victory came against UK in Gainesville on Oct. 11.

UF is led by Mary Wise, in her 23rd season as head coach. An assistant coach at Kentucky from 1986-89 and associate head coach in 19889-90, she is the nation’s winningest coach since she was named the Gators’ head coach in 1991. Wise was named AVCA National Head Coach of the Year in 1992 and ‘96 has earned SEC Coach of the Year honors 13 times. She has led Florida to the Final Four seven times and has won 20 SEC titles.

The Gators are led by two players with over 300 kills on the season. Chloe Mann, who was named the SEC Player of the Week Nov. 4, has 321 kills on .505 hitting, both team highs, with 75 blocks. Ziva Recek has totaled 304 kills at a squad best 3.42 kills per set rate to go along with 230 digs. Two time SEC Defensive Player of the Week Taylor Unroe leads the Gators with 372 digs and 35 service aces. Simone Antwi has notched 89 blocks with 221 kills, while Taylor Brauneis leads the team with 1,016 assists. Alex Holston, the SEC Freshman of the Week on Oct. 7, has totaled 260 kills on .397 hitting with 50 blocks.

The Kentucky-Florida rivalry is the only SEC series in which the Wildcats trail. UF holds a 47-12 edge in the all-time series, with seven victories in the last eight contests. the Gators claimed a 3-0 victory on Oct. 11 in the season’s first meeting.

In the season’s only other meeting between the two schools, Kentucky lost a 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-20) decision at then-No. 2 Florida on Oct. 11 in Gainesville, Fla.

Junior libero Jackie Napper led UK’s floor defense with a match-high 15 digs. Senior Whitney Billings added 10, while freshman Anni Thomasson contributed seven and sophomore Morgan Bergren logged six. Senior Alexandra Morgan paced the offensive attack with a team-high six kills, while Billings, junior Lauren O’Conner and sophomore Shelby Workman all added five apiece. Sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder chipped in with four kills and a team-high three blocks.

The 16th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team went 1-1 on the weekend at home against Texas A&M and fourth-ranked Missouri.

UK began the weekend with a balanced effort in an impressive 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 26-24) sweep of the Aggies on Nov. 22. UK pushed past the visitors in each of the first and third sets, while three players registered double-figure kills and four more in double-figure digs.

Senior Whitney Billings led the way for UK with 15 kills to go along with 10 digs for her 39th career double-double. UK had 62 digs for the match, a new program record in a three-set match in the 25-point rally scoring era.

Senior Alexandra Morgan led the charge with 10 kills on .529 hitting while adding a squad-best eight blocks. She continued her assault defensively with her 10th match of the season in SEC play with five or more blocks, with a squad-best eight against Texas A&M.

Undefeated and fourth-ranked Missouri claimed a 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-16) win Nov. 24 on Senior Day. Senior Whitney Billings logged nine kills and eight digs in the loss to pace the Wildcats.

Missouri charted 47 kills on .407 hitting with a pair of players in double-figures. Kentucky notched 34 kills on .183 hitting and was flustered into 17 hitting errors. Junior Lauren O’Conner notched eight kills, while UK got seven kills from both of its middle blockers in senior Alexandra Morgan and sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder.

Wednesday’s contest with No. 6 Florida marks the end of the regular season for Kentucky. The Wildcats’ postseason fate will be decided Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET when the field of 64 is announced. The NCAA Selection Show will air on ESPNU.

Kentucky is expected to be selected to its school-record ninth-consecutive NCAA Tournament and the 15th in program history. The Wildcats are 14-14 all-time in NCAA Tournament action, with two trips to the Elite Eight. UK is coming off back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances.

Freshman Anni Thomasson has wasted no time making her presence known on the court this season for the Wildcats. On Nov. 10, she made her presence known nationally, with a record-breaking outing against LSU.

Thomasson had a match for the ages in UK’s five-set victory over the Tigers with a 30-kill, 22-dig outing. She became what is believed to be the first freshman in program history and just the second in UK history to tally 30 or more kills and 20 or more digs in a single match. She joins Molly Dreisbach as the only other player to achieve the feat. Dresibach had 33 kills and 26 digs in Nov. 26, 1994 vs. Duke.

She is the first SEC player to turn the 30-20 trick since Alabama’s Kayla Fitterer in 2010. The last UK player to record 30 kills in a match was Sarah Spinner’s 36 in 2004.

On the season, the first-year star is second on the team with 213 kills and third with 232 digs. She has totaled four double-doubles in her inaugural campaign.

Ninth-year head coach Craig Skinner won his 200th career match in Nov. 17’s 3-0 win at Ole Miss. With a 201-83 career mark, he is the school’s second all-time winningest coach entering Wednesday’s match and sits just eight wins shy of tying the all-time wins mark at UK. Kathy DeBoer tallied 209 in nine seasons at the helm from 1984-92.

In addition to Skinner’s 200th career win, UK’s victory at Ole Miss marked its 20th victory of the season for the third straight year and the sixth time in the past seven campaigns. With their 17th victory this season coming at the hands of South Carolina, the Blue and White have amassed 17 or more victories in all nine seasons of Skinner’s tenure.

Through 28 matches, the Wildcats have been involved in 19 three-set contests. UK has posted a 14-5 record in 3-0 outings, including a 8-3 mark in Southeastern Conference action.

The 14 sweeps by the Wildcats on the season were fueled by a seven-match winning streak, where UK posted five 3-0 wins. The winning streak included a run in which Kentucky recorded victories in 19 of 20 sets. After claiming the fifth frame in UK’s upset win over No. 4 Minnesota, only Alabama was able to win a set against the Wildcats.

In UK’s nine matches this season that went longer than three frames, Kentucky has played three four-set contests and six matches that have gone the distance.

The habit of making quick work is nothing new for the Wildcats, who notched a 12-4 record in three-set contests last season.

In SEC play, the Wildcats lead the conference with an average of 2.99 blocks per set. In conference action, senior Alexandra Morgan ranks second in the league, averaging 1.47 blocks per set, while sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder is fifth with a 1.29 average. Senior Whitney Billings is 11th with a 0.91 blocks per set average. UK is the only team with more than one player ranked in the top 11.

On the year, the Wildcats have totaled 267.5 blocks, for a 2.70 blocks per set rate. Morgan’s 1.26 blocks per set average and 125 blocks on the year are both team highs.

As a team, UK has out-blocked its opponent 16 times, with wins in 15 contests and 11 victories in SEC play. The Wildcats are 6-6 in matches where they have notched equal or fewer blocks then their opponent. Kentucky has 267.5 blocks on the season, while it has held the opposition to 210.5.

UK’s stellar blocking totals are highlighted by a record-setting 19-block outing at Mississippi State and back-to-back 15-block performances vs. Alabama Oct. 27 and at Arkansas on Nov. 1.

The 19 blocks at MSU was the most since UK recorded 20.5 on Oct. 21, 2011 and the most in a three-set match in the 25-point, rally scoring era in Wildcat history. Morgan recorded a career-best 11 blocks, the most from a UK player since she notched 10 nearly a year ago, on Nov. 18, 2012. Senior Whitney Billings tied a career high with eight.

Three players registered six or more block assists in the victory over Alabama, including eight from Billings and Schwarzwalder, while Morgan totaled six. Kentucky out-blocked the Crimson Tide 5-0 in both the first and fourth sets.

At Arkansas, Schwarzwalder posted a career best nine blocks as UK once again totaled 15 rejections. Morgan added six and Billings five in the win. The Wildcats had five blocks in the second set before a six-block performance in the third frame.

UK has been awarded with weekly honors six times by the SEC this season. Senior Whitney Billings was named the SEC Player of the Week on Sept. 16 and 29, while Alexandra Morgan earned Defensive Player of the Week accolades on Sept. 29 and again on Nov. 18. Anni Thomasson garnered the Freshman of the Week award on Sept. 16 and was named Player of the Week on Nov. 11.

The six weekly honors ties the most in one season in UK history, since the league began giving out three awards each week in 2005. The Wildcats also were honored six times during the 2008 campaign.

Senior Jessi Greenberg was named to the Capital One Academic All-District Team. The Melbourne, Fla., native is one of six named to the District 2 NCAA Division I team, it was announced Thursday. Greenberg automatically advances to the national ballot for Academic All-America honors.

Greenberg is an International Strategic Communications and Marketing major. She has played in 22 matches with four starts and has registered 43 digs and two aces in addition to a kill and an assist on the year.

Senior Whitney Billings made history against Louisville with her sixth dig of the match. After she reached the 1,000 kill plateau on Aug. 31, she eclipsed the 1,000 dig mark Sept. 10. The outside hitter became the first Wildcat in the modern era of Kentucky volleyball to achieve the 1,000 kills and digs mark in her career.

With 1,337 kills and 1,203 digs in her career going into the weekend, she is the sixth member of the 1,000 kills and digs club at UK. The previous five all met the mark before the 25-point rally scoring system was introduced in 2008.

Billings notched double-doubles in the first four matches to open the year. The Helena, Ala. native has posted 11 double-double performances this season and 41 in her career. On the year, she has led the team in kills 17  times and has posted team bests in blocks and digs six times.

Senior Jessi Greenberg was selected as one of 30 candidates for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate volleyball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition.

For 37 seasons of Kentucky volleyball, Memorial Coliseum has been home for the Wildcats. UK has a favorable record in the friendly confines of the esteemed venue.

This year, Kentucky is 10-1 at home. The mark includes a 4-0 mark in SEC contests, a 3-2 upset win over then-No. 4 and undefeated Minnesota and a five-set win over in-state rival Louisville. The Wildcats also won their seventh Kentucky Classic on their home court to open the home campaign.

375-146 (37th season) .720
Skinner era:
115-25 (9th year) .821


Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 13-14. The regional will get underway Dec. 13, with semifinal contests at 5 and 7 p.m. ET, while the regional final will commence Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Seattle, Wash., from the Lexington Region. This marks the second time in three seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event. Tickets for the event are available now at UKathletics.com/tickets.